Desktop Hard Drive

The latest costly computer problem I’ve encountered is the failing of the hard drive on the desktop. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, on boot up it stopped on the test screen indicating the hard drive was “capable and status BAD”. The next evening when I booted up again, the same thing happened. Both times hitting F1 resumed the boot and all seemed to be ok.

I did some online research and learned that the “bad” indication was in fact a warning that this hard drive was failing. There was no telling how long it would continue to function, so it was clear to me a replacement was needed ASAP.

The next day, I called the shop to ask if they had a 1 terabyte, solid-state drive in stock. They did not, so I ordered one and took the rest of the day to make sure I had everything backed up in case the failing drive did not allow cloning it to the new drive.

Tuesday, I took it in and left it there in hopes they would receive the new drive and get it installed, cloned, etc. before the end of the day Wednesday, so we’d have it back before Thanksgiving. They said they would call when it was ready.

It did not get done by then. I’m not terribly surprised. It is a small operation and one of the two guys was out for a Thanksgiving week vacation with family.

It was yesterday, (Wednesday after Thanksgiving – a full eight days later) that I finally was able to pick it up again. I spent most of the day and evening yesterday installing all the software we use. Other than the stuff that comes with Windows 10 Pro, there was nothing on it.

Today I spent all day continuing to install, tweak, troubleshoot, etc. I am finally at a point where it is almost back to normal. There is only one problem I have not resolved yet. That is the DVD drive is not recognized and does not work. I’ve done some research online and have tried a couple of the possible solutions, but so far, no success.

That will have to be the subject of another post someday.

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Browsers

On the two PC’s, we use three browsers regularly – Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge.

My preference is Firefox, not the least because it is open source. I’ve always been a fan of open source as a concept and try to support software that continues in that vein. Another reason is it is less a resource hog than Chrome. If one uses a browser while gaming (I often do with Minecraft), a smaller program is helpful to keeping computing power focused on the game.

For years Chrome was my preference, but as it has grown in size and complexity, I like it less. My wife is used to it, so that is set as the default browser on the desktop.

Microsoft Edge has one advantage – it is generally faster than other browsers. However, the way I use bookmarks, it is woefully inadequate for folders, sub-folders, etc. I use it relatively rarely on both machines, but sometimes it is useful.

The first browser I ever used was Mosaic. Then soon after, Netscape and Internet Explorer were the best options. I always preferred Netscape back then. Over the years I used several others, including Opera, Pale Moon, and the SeaMonkey suite, but eventually settled on Chrome and Firefox.

I should note on the iPad, I’ve used Safari (don’t like it), Chrome, and Mercury. I very much prefer Mercury, so use that almost exclusively now.

Security Software

Before I discuss the software I currently use in this category, I think it only fair to explain my general reticence about anything that uses the “cloud”. From the early days of its inception, I did not like the idea. I very much prefer having all of my data on my own computers (and backup drives), mostly for security, but also for privacy purposes.

With that brief introduction, here are the three items I’ve chosen to list in this category:

  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
  • Windows Defender
  • KeePass 2

The first two are obvious fits for the category. KeePass could just as easily have been included in the Productivity or Utility categories. I include it here because I believe having strong passwords is a key to online security, and this program makes it easy to not have to re-use passwords or resort to more simple ones because they are easier to remember. With KeePass, I only need to remember one password – the one to access KeePass itself.

I’ve chosen KeePass over several other options, mostly because it is NOT cloud based, as most of the others are, but also because of its relative simplicity to use and its features that include the ability to auto save a backup copy (sync) to another location, including another computer on my home, private, wi-fi network. Also, there are Apple and Android versions of KeePass allowing for use on any device, which I occasionally do, especially when traveling. If you are not yet using a password keeper/generator, I highly recommend you download and try this one.

Windows Defender is my choice as an anti-virus app, mostly because I believe the Malwarebytes program is so powerful, pairing it with this convenient, Windows 10 based option has been effective for me.

I bought Malwarebytes Anti-Malware several years ago, probably because it was so highly rated when I was looking for replacements for what came installed on my computers. Over the years, I’ve used many other programs – Zone Alarm was probably the first one. I’ve tried Avast, AVG, McAfee, Norton, Panda, and a few others, but have never been really satisfied. They tend to slow things down too much, especially for gaming.

When I bought Malwarebytes, it was a one-time purchase for a lifetime license, even transferable to a new computer when you sold and bought a new one. I bought two licenses – one for each computer at the time. A few years ago, Malwarebytes changed its policy and now charges an annual fee with no lifetime option, but I still think its power and ease of use are worth the price. There is a free trial option when using it for the first time. It will allow full scans for malware, and it works well. When the trial period ends, you will be bugged to buy a license, but you can continue to use it for manual malware scans free. What you get with the license is continuous, live protection.

Software Overview

In the next series of posts, I intend to discuss some of the software programs (these days called ‘apps’) I have used in the past or continue to use regularly, if not daily. I will group them by type or purpose and write separate posts for each group.

These are the groups I’ve decided upon, at least for now:

  • Security
  • Browsers
  • Mail
  • Productivity
  • Photo Management
  • Utility
  • Communication

Most people use software in each of these groups, but some of what I have encountered and use (or used) for specific purposes might be new to the reader.

Goal Accomplished: Win with all DLC Civs

Yesterday I won with the final civ of the downloadable-content (DLC) civs. It happened to be Poland (Jadwiga). A few weeks ago, I bought all the DLC on special and that presented a new challenge – win a game with each of the new (to me) civs.

In an earlier post, I mentioned I had bought Nubia (Amanitore) quite a while ago and already played and won a game (Culture) with that civ, so that left six civs from the DLC group.

Macedon (Alexander) was the first one and it turned out to be a pretty overpowered civ for a Domination victory. It took me just 321 turns on Standard Pace to clean up the map (Pangaea). With cities never incurring war weariness, you can be at war almost perpetually.

With the other four, I ended up winning through Science. Even though I tried for other victory types, especially a Religious victory with Poland, but apparently my general style of play leads more often than not to me choosing Science.

Just for the record the rest of the DLC are:

  • Persia (Cyrus)
  • Indonesia (Gitarja)
  • Khmer (Jayavarman VII)
  • Australia (John Curtin)

 

Networking Lessons

Establishing a home network using a router can be complicated, even intimidating.

Many years ago, when I first used a laptop for work, I decided we needed a router so I could use the laptop at home. Since then, I have used three different routers (D-Link, Cisco and Linksys).

It has been quite a while since I bought and installed the first one, but as I recall, the initial setup was a bit tricky. Once set up, what made using it very user friendly was a program called Network Magic (name changes over time – Pure Network Magic, then Cisco Network Magic) that came with the installation disk of D-Link. Cisco Connect was its successor and it took a little adjustment, but worked ok. The current system, Linksys Smart-Wifi, was least user-friendly to set up, and its many features have sometimes created some confusion in ongoing use.

For example, recently after buying the new laptop, I discovered the “Priorities” feature that allows you to set up priorities for bandwidth use for each connected device (including iPads, guest laptops, cellphones, etc., and we have a number of devices connected at any given time.) I decided to give my new laptop highest priority and desktop computer second highest priority and started using the feature. When I noticed we had very slow download and upload speeds, I thought something was wrong with the IP modem or their throttling. I eventually figured out when I set up the priority feature, I had inadvertently radically limited the bandwidth for each! Needless to say, as soon as I discovered that problem, I quickly disabled the feature and have never used it again.

We are paying for higher speed internet access allowing 100MB, so we have never really had any issues with bandwidth sharing even when we have several devices in use simultaneously. I don’t ever anticipate using the “Priority” feature again.

Other Devices

I’ve discussed the PCs and laptops as my primary computing devices already. In addition, my wife and I use other devices that technically are computers. We each have a smartphone (same brand and model for minimizing confusion). In addition, I use an old iPad (2nd generation that is maxed out at IOS 9 latest and therefore cannot use the most recent IOS 12), and my wife uses an iPad Mini that just updated to IOS 12.

For years we resisted getting smart phones, because we did not feel the need to have the features they provide when we had two computers for those things. We had basic cellphones. When the batteries were near dead on those old phones, we finally succumbed to the new age and bought Samsung Galaxy 6 phones (not the most current at the time even), but their size was more appealing than the Galaxy 7.

My challenge is to be well enough versed in all the operating systems to do trouble-shooting when necessary.